Sad news: Actor who played TeleTubbies’ Tinky Winky has died

Simon Shelton Barnes

Actor Simon Shelton Barnes, who played the handbag-carrying character Tinky Winky in the popular TV show TeleTubbies has died, aged 52.

Dad of three

Simon was one of the four actors who worked as Tinky Winky, starring in 15 episodes as the 90’s most popular purple guy. He shared the part with the other Tinky Winkys – Dave Thompson, Mark Heenehan and Jeremiah Krageb – alongside fellow Teletubbies: Dipsy, LaLa and Po.

Simon was a dad of three, and trained as a choreographer and dancer before taking on this famous role as the biggest and most talked-about Teletubby. He was married to actor Emma Robbins and lived in Ampthill in Bedfordshire.

Tinky Winky was at the centre of a global controversy when conservative pastor and TV evangelist Jerry Falwell accused the character of being part of a gay brainwashing conspiracy, “he is purple, the gay pride colour, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle: the gay pride symbol,” Falwell warned.

The BBC responded to these misguided ramblings with an eye-roll tinged statement: “Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag.” Indeed, BBC, indeed.

Over the hills and far away

Simon described the Teletubbies as “a bit like the Beatles or Take That of television” and noted that accepting the role was not an easy decision, but was one that he relished.

“I thought it was a bit of a risky move but it certainly paid off,” Simon had said of the much-loved fuzzy purple guy. He explained he got plenty of fan mail from children and their parents. 

It’s fair to say that when the program was released, it bewildered many mums and dads, but kids seemed to love it and it quickly developed a cult following – and plenty of excellent parodies.

“Most gentle man”

Simon’s son Henry shared a tribute to his famous dad on Facebook, saying he could not be more proud of him and his work. It’s a sweet insight into a man who was obviously much-adored – and very accomplished.

“I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything! I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn’t be more proud! He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad, so I’m going to live my life the way he would want me to.”

Friends and family have been asked to wear bright colours to Simon’s funeral, in celebration of the talented and lovely man he was.

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